Italians get the goat over rise in wacky degrees

November 24, 2006

Italian universities have caught the wacky degree bug with a bewildering range of unregulated masters that has grown fourfold since 2001 and by 24 per cent in just the past year.

Officials fear they are stoking unrealistic career ambitions among students and their parents.

The University of L'Aquila, for instance, runs a course in international rugby management. On offer elsewhere are masters in language and values in television films; perfumes, scents and natural aromas; food design; and management of large wild mammals in the Alps.

The programmes, aimed at students with first or second degrees, cost €1,000-€3,000 (£670-£2,000).

Elena Montecchi, Undersecretary at the Culture Ministry, commented: "You do not become a film director with a 60-hour masters."

Critics complain that the programmes create the illusion of a pathway to a profession - a claim refuted by reliable graduate employment statistics.

Masters in fields such as the media, communications and cultural management are cited as not being relevant to job-market demands.

Luciano Modica, Undersecretary at the University Ministry, former president of the Rectors' Conference and a former rector of Siena University, said:

"We are worried that this gives students and parents unrealistic expectations of career opportunities."

He added: "There is nothing we can do. A masters has no legal value.

Universities are free to run courses without ministry guidance.

"If there are masters that students pay for, but that are pointless in terms of serious training or job opportunities, it is an ethical issue rather than a legal one."

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